On Saturday 27th July 2019, the car park on Roman Road was transformed into the buzzing Roman Road Park Festival. Despite initial inclement weather, the event was well attended, with visits from both the Mayor of Tower Hamlets, John Biggs, and Labour MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, Rushanara Ali.
For the past six months, Roman Road Trust and other local community groups have been working on producing the Roman Road Common Vision which is a shared vision aiming to make Roman Road a more healthy, friendly, and thriving high street. The Common Vision document will be submitted to the Council to inform the Liveable Streets initiative, which has recently received a £3.3m funding boost from TFL.
Roman Road Park Festival consisted of a range of activities which introduced the eight key ideas of the Roman Road Common Vision. Activities were led by local groups and organisations who have contributed to the Common Vision so far. Activities included; a Cardboard City and Parklet from Better Streets for Tower Hamlets, Dr Bike from Tower Hamlets Wheelers, Pop-up Tennis from Tower Hamlets Tennis, and a giant bubble show from Bobby’s Bubbles.
Roman Road Park Festival also hosted a range of stalls including Plastic-free Roman Road, Old Ford Primary Tote Bags sale, Roman Road London, Roman Road Bow Neighbourhood Forum, and Roman Road Community Land Trust.
John Biggs, Mayor of Tower Hamlets, attended Roman Road Park Festival and spoke to Roman Road Trust about the importance of such projects. Biggs stated “I want to support community initiatives such as the Roman Road Trust. Although we will not always agree on absolutely everything, you’ve got to keep the pressure up in the community and make a strong voice on behalf of those who want a better quality of life in Bow.”
Rushanara Ali, Labour MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, also visited Roman Road Park Festival and expressed the benefit of community events: “It has been great to hear from residents about how they want improvements to the local area, linking the current car park with the market, creating a hub to socialise – like you have done today.” Ali spoke to Roman Road Trust about our Key Idea 1: Create Town Squares and explained the challenges surrounding the car park becoming a multi-use community space and town square: “The council will have to consider the competing priorities (such as demands for parking) but I definitely think there is a role for involving residents in thinking through and designing solutions together.”
The most popular activities of the day were Cardboard City and the Parklet which were provided by Better Streets for Tower Hamlets. Both activities encouraged visitors to interact with the car park in new and different ways. Cardboard City was a visual delight with children spending hours building, demolishing, and re-building their ideal Roman Road from discarded cardboard boxes and packaging from businesses. The Parklet was designed to fit within a parking-bay and consisted of artificial turf, a bench with parasol, and two large planters adapted for bicycle locking. The Parklet was used throughout the day by visitors to relax, chat, and secure their bikes.
Roman Road Park Festival also stretched beyond the car park to neighbouring gardens. Local green spaces held mini-events to showcase the many green spaces available for the area to enjoy. These included open days by Poets Corner Community Food Garden, Meath Gardens, Cranbrook Community Food Garden, Butley Court Community Orchard, and work sessions on the Globe Town high street planters hosted by Globe Town Assembly.
An exhibition of the eight key ideas was held in the Common Room, an outdoor space adjacent to the car park. Visitors submitted written feedback as well as Facebook Live video feedback, which can be found on the Roman Road Trust Facebook Page.
Roman Road Trust will incorporate this feedback into the final version of the Roman Road Common Vision which will be submitted to the local authority at the end of September 2019.
Roman Road Trust would like to say thank you to all groups, organisations, and projects who have helped shape the Common Vision and produce the Roman Road Park Festival. Special thanks to our sponsor Clarion Housing and the many local businesses who generously provide the use of their facilities during Roman Road Trust events.
Follow Roman Road Trust on Facebook & Twitter: @romanroadtrust
You can view the Common Vision Exhibition online and submit your feedback HERE.